The site was marked out in 1239 at Wendischwalde and in 1300 the Saxon king, Otto I, established the settlement. It grew slowly but steadily. The town castle (1669) survives as the town museum but it suffered fires in 1686 and 1757, and floods from the Elbe in 1709 and 1761. Nevertheless, because of its position, it prospered from the opening of the Berlin–Hamburg steamship traffic. By 1823 milling, processing and refining of foodstuffs were important industries. In 1846 the railway came and a silk factory was built, followed by a chemical factory in 1849. The Reichsbahn railway workshops were established in 1875 and the world-famous Singer Sewing Machine Company set up there in 1903. By 1914 the Rathaus was built.
Between the wars much architecture characteristic of the period was built in the form of workers' housing for the rapidly increased population. It suffered as most German towns did during WW II. Only the railway workshops remain as significant employers of the old industries but the large, skilled workforce remains for the newer industries of precision engineering and applied chemistry.
Development of Population since 1875 within the Current Boundaries (Blue Line: Population; Dotted Line: Comparison to Population Development of Brandenburg state; Grey Background: Time of Nazi rule; Red Background: Time of Communist rule)
Recent Population Development (Blue Line) and Forecasts
Population development within the current boundaries (2013)